Plant genotypic diversity does not beget root-fungal species diversity
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- Johnson, D., Anderson, I.C., Williams, A. et al. Plant Soil (2010) 336: 107. doi:10.1007/s11104-010-0452-9
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The number of genetically distinct individuals within a community is a key component of biodiversity and yet its impact at different trophic levels, especially upon the diversity of functionally important soil microorganisms is poorly understood. Here, we test the hypothesis that plant communities that are genetically impoverished will support fewer species of root-associated fungi. We used established grassland mesocosms comprising non-sterile natural soil supporting defined communities of 11 clonally-propagated plant species. Half of the mesocosms contained one genotype per species and half 16 genotypes per species. After 8 years growth, we sampled roots from the mesocosms and measured root-associated fungal richness and diversity using terminal restriction fragment length polymorphism (T-RFLP). Contrary to our hypothesis, we found that the roots of genetically impoverished communities contained more species of fungi and had greater diversity compared to genetically rich communities. Analysis of the plant species composition of the mesocosm communities indicated that genotypic diversity affects root-fungal diversity indirectly through its influence upon plant species diversity. Our findings highlight the need to include feedbacks with plant intraspecific diversity into existing models describing the maintenance of soil biodiversity.